A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing the Perfect Engagement Ring

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Choosing the perfect engagement ring is a milestone event. It's not only a symbol of love and commitment, it’s a piece of jewelry meant to last for a lifetime. With so many factors to consider, from the cut of the diamond to the style of the band, the process can be both exhilarating and overwhelming.

In this article, we'll guide you through the art of selecting an engagement ring. We spoke with two experts to get their input and advice on choosing the right ring for you whether you want a classic solitaire, a modern bezel set oval, or somewhere in between, we've got you covered with information and insights to help you make this important selection.

Meet Our Expert

  • Kristina Buckley Kayel is the managing director of the Natural Diamond Council.

  • Grant Mobley is an in-house diamond expert with the Natural Diamond Council.

Understanding the 4Cs

When it comes to diamonds, you’ll need to know about the 4Cs, a set of four essential characteristics used to evaluate and grade the quality of a diamond. For each of the 4Cs—cut, clarity, color, carat weight—there are certain criteria to look for, and the combination of each of the factors helps to determine the diamond’s value.


The term ‘cut’ refers to a diamond’s shape. Some of the most popular cuts include round, oval, emerald, solitaire, or princess, but there is a huge variety of unique cuts you may find when shopping for your dream ring. While cuts like a round brilliant may be more highly valued for their multi-faceted shape that allows for maximum sparkle when it comes to cut, you should always consider your personal style, says Buckley Kayel. You may have a preferred shape based on taste, or you may want to choose a style that works well with your hand shape. Buckley Kayel advises that stones in the oval and pear-shaped families can elongate fingers, and for those with smaller hands, a minimal diamond shape will look most proportionate to your finger.

Related: The 10 Most Popular Engagement Ring Cuts


When it comes to the color of a natural diamond, we’re talking about a lack of color—the closer a stone is to colorless the rarer and more valuable it is. With most diamonds, you may not be able to identify their color easily. “To the average consumer, most natural diamonds appear colorless,” advises Buckley Kayel. In reality, they often have slight tones of yellow or brown. The Gemological Institute of America has a standardized color spectrum that grades the color of a diamond with D being the highest standard of colorlessness: D—F diamonds are colorless; G—L diamonds are "near colorless;" and M—Z diamonds have traces of color.


If you don’t want a traditional colorless diamond, there are also visibly colorful natural diamonds in shades like yellow and pink. Several of Victoria Beckham’s 15 (yes, 15 )engagement rings are colored. Among colored diamonds, red is the most rare.

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Related: The Most Gorgeous Celebrity Engagement Rings


When discussing the clarity of a natural diamond, we are referring to the absence of the natural inclusions that formed in them billions of years ago. “Natural diamonds that don't have any inclusions are extremely rare and called flawless,” says Buckley Kayel. “They make up some of the most valuable natural diamonds in the world.” While in terms of monetary value, inclusions can lower it, it can also be important to remember that most diamonds will have some type of inclusions, and they can be a feature that makes a diamond more distinct—just like every fingerprint is unique, so is every diamond! “There may be a natural diamond that has an inclusion, a certain hue, or another alluring trait that speaks to you,” Buckley Kayel notes.

Carat Weight

The final ‘C’ of the four is carat weight, which refers to a diamond's size. In the US, the average size for an engagement ring is one carat, but choosing the right size diamond for you can depend on a variety of factors including budget and personal taste. In determining your preferred carat weight, Buckley Kayel recommends trying on a variety of sizes. “You might think you know how many carats you want, then realize you want something smaller or larger once you try it on,” she advises.

Exploring Different Ring Settings

Once you’ve chosen a diamond based on the above criteria, you’ll want to consider how to set it in a ring in your preferred way. Mobley gave us some insight into a few common terms when it comes to diamond settings, but he also noted that there are seemingly unlimited engagement ring settings these days that you might consider. “I have been in the industry for 18 years and am still surprised, all the time, by the creativity and ingenuity of jewelry designers,” he says. “That is part of what makes diamond jewelry so special.” But for some general guidance to get you started, here are some terms to know.


A prong setting refers to how your diamond is affixed in your ring—prongs are the small pieces of metal that curve over a diamond to hold it in its place on a ring. According to Mobley, the vast majority of diamonds, of all shapes and sizes, are set with prongs, and this technique has been around for thousands of years. The benefit of a prong setting is that it secures the diamond while still allowing you to see the majority of the jewel from the sides, increasing a diamond’s brilliance. Some drawbacks to prongs are that clothing and other materials can catch on prongs, and over time dirt can build up under them if you do not keep your jewelry clean. Prongs can also wear thin over time and need to be repaired to keep your diamond secure. “I recommend having your jeweler check your prongs every year to make sure you get ahead of any potential problems that could cause you to lose a diamond,” Mobley advises.


In a bezel setting, unlike a prong setting, there are no small pieces of metal curving over the diamond. Instead, there is a metal rim or collar surrounding the stone to hold it in place. “A bezel is arguably the most secure setting for a diamond since there are no prongs to wear over time, “ says Mobley. Additionally, bezel settings are usually smoother on the top and tend to not get as dirty as prongs since the sides and bottom are usually closed. However, the less open setting also means less light can get to the diamond, and it may not seem as brilliant as other settings.


A halo setting, unlike a prong or bezel, does not refer to how your diamond is fixed in place, but rather a style of ring where one or more rows of smaller diamonds are set around the center diamond. This could be done in a variety of ways, including prong and bezel settings.” A halo setting creates an illusion of your center diamond being much larger because of the addition of the perimeter of smaller diamonds,” notes Mobley, “The use of a halo mounting can be most efficient to make a smaller diamond look larger on your finger in a more budget-conscious way.” Mobley also notes that halos began with mostly round diamonds in mind, but designers have expanded their use with almost any size and shape diamond you can think of.

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How to Determine the Right Ring Size

It’s no surprise that the first step in determining the right ring size is to measure your finger. You can do this by visiting a jewelry store, or if you’d prefer to do it at home, you can do it with a piece of paper and a ruler, or you can order an inexpensive set of gauges that help you measure on your own. But even once you know the approximate correct size, Buckley Kayel strongly advises you to take some time to try on rings and see what type of fit you enjoy most. Here are a few considerations she recommends taking into account:

  • Reasons to Size Up: Certain bands, including thicker bands and those that are less round and more square, may need to be sized up to ensure they can slide past your knuckles.

  • Additional Rings: It’s wise to think about what other rings you might wear in the future with your engagement ring, says Buckley Kayel. The most obvious addition is your wedding band, but consider if you may want to potentially add rings celebrating anniversaries. You’ll want any added rings to fit comfortably together.

  • Swelling: According to Buckley Kayel, you never want your ring to be too snug, because it’s natural for your fingers to swell with different activities and in different climates. “Always plan to have a tiny bit of room so your ring will always feel comfortable,” she advises.

Setting a Budget

Despite what certain jewelry ads may have told you, no set amount of salary or dollar value is most universally appropriate for spending on an engagement ring. “People should only spend what they are comfortable with,” says Mobley. “I recommend that you take your income, future investment goals, savings, and debt into consideration when figuring out your budget. If you’re planning to go in on the ring with your partner, you must have these conversations together to make sure you are aligned on your budget.” For most people, the plan is to buy an engagement ring and keep it for the rest of their lives, possibly passing it down to children. But if you think you might want to upgrade your ring over the years, you can consider that natural diamonds have been shown to appreciate 3% per year, according to Mobley.

Where to Buy

When it comes to jewelers, there are plenty to choose from—but you’ll want to choose carefully!  “A good jeweler is a relationship you should have for a lifetime,” Mobley states. “They can guide you through your milestone purchases and be there for jewelry checkups, cleanings, and repairs forever.” So how to find one? Mobley recommends talking to family and friends for recommendations in your area, reading reviews, and seeing fine jewelry in person before buying whenever you can.

Ultimately, the quest for your ideal engagement ring is a personal journey. Learning about the technical criteria like the 4Cs and different settings can provide a helpful starting point, but ultimately, the decision should be guided by your style, financial considerations, and the profound symbolism of love and commitment that it represents.

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